Working with Muybridge
Having produced a series of single images in a variety of ways I decided that I wanted to try another idea, that of creating a series of poses to show a movement. I have long been a great fan of Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) and his pioneering locomotion photography work in the 19th Century. Inspired by some of his sequences I wanted to produce a time-lapse series of drawings based on a jump. I started by studying some sequences published in Muybridge, E. (2000). The Human Figure in Motion. Dover Anatomy for Artists.
These are very quick sketches done on graph paper (Muybridge photographed his subjects in front of a lined background so changes in height can be recorded).
I chose 4 sequential frames from a point of foot contact with the substrate (in this case a rock) and drew each pose quickly in a different coloured biro. I was not overly concerned with detail, what I wanted to capture was a sense of the sequence with the body being connected to the space at one point. In reality this was a harder exercise than I anticipated not least because each individual photographic plate is quite small. They are also quite grainy (this was pioneering work after all). The graph paper was useful as it allowed me to observe and record changes in the relative heights of the body segments. However the resulting sketch is very crowded and I can see that this may not be the best point to start. The view-point is also very linear which does not make for such a dramatic sequence. So I change tack and try capturing some flight periods of jumping from a different view-point: behind the jumper.
The problem with viewing a jumper from behind is that you can not run your sequences together to a coherent sequence, you are always jumping from frame to frame with your eye (no pun intended). So I revert back to the lateral view and do some very quick 1 and 2 minute studies of sequences:
My main aim in the studies below is to look at the angles of the body axis to show forward movement, followed by some more quick sketches of the high jumper. I have added smudging lines by running across the ink in the bottom set of drawings here. Interestingly the eye automatically takes in the body first then leaves the image by way of the lines, so those lines smudging in a forward direction actually cause the image to appear to be moving backwards.
Working with Muybidge sequences, as pioneering as they were, has its drawbacks. Firstly they are very small and secondly they are limited to two view only, either lateral for dorso-ventral views. Whilst they are excellent reference material it is because of these two points that I realised I was going to have to find my own sequence of movement to photograph.
Whilst sorting out photography I did a quick series of sketches using some of my ballet dancer poses in the style of Judith Kunzle. The idea was to repeat a motif or figure, each in a slightly different position so that the viewer gets a sense of movement from the series.
My dancers here look as if they are tripping over the floor! Space and shadows are needed to get that height and energy over to the view!
Creating my own sequence
I took my children to a local park and photographed them running up and over a bench. I chose single frame photograph rather than video for this as I wanted some spontaneous poses to draw from without a dictated path. I felt a video would draw me in to accepting all that was in front of me frame by frame without room for interpretation. Taking individual pictures ruled this out. I did manage to get 2 or 3 shots of the same sequence but the greater changes in the body positions between two sequential photos allowed for a bit of interpretation of my own: I wanted to be able to build the path of motion up myself. I positioned myself down at grass level pointing the camera up so that they were jumping past me to my left avoiding a lateral view. I tried photographing from a variety of angles and heights. From the resulting photographs I selected 6 poses that had limbs in interesting places and that conveyed a sense of the jumper coming towards me with height.
Pose 1 and 2 were from the same sequence, poses 3 – 6 were of a different child and from 4 different sequences.
From these photographs I did a series of very quick (1 or 2 mins only) A3 drawings using different media to see what effects of movement would appear.
I particularly like the coloured charcoal studies (no’s 3, 4 and 5). The pose is very dynamic with the foot off the ground coming towards the viewer in a dramatic way. The slightly abstract nature of these three drawings appeals to me. The same pose in ink (no.6) is fussy and boring in comparison, lacking that sense of power in the movement. These were all A3 studies (my equivalent of thumbnails!) so I decided to go big and do an A1 quick study using graphite and water to capture the sense of movement found in the smaller coloured charcoal studies.
I used graphite putty to draw with big bold strokes onto wet heavyweight cartridge paper to produce the study below. It was a bit of a mistake as I didn’t get the shading right and once you wet graphite it is actually quite hard to erase without damaging the paper surface. In addition the graphite forms a very smooth shiny layer over which it is incredibly difficult to layer other drawing media. To rectify my mistakes I went over various lines and using charcoal and oil pastel and tried to reintroduce highlights with white. None of this really worked but I kept going until I really had had enough. I didn’t manage to rectify it and over all this was a bit of a mess, but the resulting image does have one redeeming feature and that was the depiction of the leg raised in the air. It really has sense of coming out of the page. It is an area that wasn’t overworked at all and managed to retain that fresh feel to it. The photograph is not very good. I could not get a better quality image from it, the light is bouncing off the shiny graphite and bleaching out the top half. However the area of interest, the raised leg is clear.
I tried to do a reveal study of this jump using white oil pastel on paper and a wash of brown ink. It didn’t really work so I went over the drawing in oil pastel, layering different colours on top to find effects. I found that scratching back into the oil pastel with my finger nail produced some interesting edges however the study holds little else of interest. There is a slight air of movement about the pose created by the direction of the dark oil pastel lines on the left but it is a scrappy drawing. I don’t understand how to use oil pastel, it always looks so flat even when I have added tones to structures. My final drawing was not going to be in oil pastel!
I tried to use ink on wet paper to create some of the effects I managed for static poses. Again the results were very unsatisfactory although perhaps marginally less so that the preceding study! The water splodges do add a bit of movement to the pose, but it is not dynamic enough. The edges to the figure have dried before I could blend them creating quite a hard outline in places. The pose was too complicated for me to work any quicker so I feel that ink is not the way forward.
On a more positive note the more I worked with these photographs the more I became convinced that I could put them together as a coherent sequence to create my own time-lapse sequence. For all the problems I was encountering I particularly liked this leaping pose and was keen to include this.
The preparatory work for my final drawing is presented in my next blog post